UTSA Insider: Safeties Coach Perry Eliano

It’s two weeks until the season kicks off at Arizona. We take you inside with our conversation with Assistant Coach Perry Eliano

Interview with UTSA Safeties and Special Teams Coach Perry Eliano

How are practices going?
“My guys that have played over the last couple of years, they’re ready to see some different opponents and start working on Arizona. They’re practicing well. They’ve really embraced the roll of just working hard and fighting through the grind. We’re very pleased up to this point.”

When do you start working on Arizona?
“We have a scrimmage Friday. We’ll make some decisions then as far as guys who are on the bubble. After Friday we will jump into Arizona a little bit on Saturday and then we’ll really crank it up on Monday.”

Do you know who you’ll use in the return game?
“It’s still up in the air. I think Brett Winnegan has done a phenomenal job. JaBryce Taylor has done well. Another freshman, Derrick Dick has done well in punt and kick returns. Obviously, Jarveon (Williams) is there in kick returns, he did it last year. We’re very, very pleased. I think we have some different dynamics in place. I attribute that to our coaching staff being able to recruit fine athletes. We’re really excited about the return game. We’re not there just yet but we’re one step closer. I feel much better this year than I did going into last year as far as the quality of the returners but also the depth.”

Does it surprise you that UTSA has never returned a kickoff for a touchdown?
“That’s been a point of emphasis. We’ve returned a punt but we have not returned a kick off. We came close at FAU but close doesn’t count. With the dynamics that we now have in place, we feel strongly about that possibility. We always tell them we can be the first kick returner to score a touchdown in our school history. Obviously that’s not the main goal, we want to get the ball past the 30. But at the same time we’d like to put it in the box.”

Nate Gaines appears to be having a great fall. What do you expect from him?
“Just Nate to be Nate. Triston (Wade) was a unique individual that kind of defied all odds. He played a lot bigger than he was. He had a lot of heart. Nate comes in and had a chance to be under Triston and really learn how to practice and approach the game. I’m expecting great things from all of them but Nate’s a special individual. He’s very easy to coach, the game comes natural to him so I’m really looking forward to some really great things from him. Truthfully, Nate played against Oklahoma State some, he was in there at free safety. Nate has got game experience, obviously not a ton, but he’s been under the bright lights. Whatever stadium we’re in, that young man will be ready to play and the lights will never be to bright for him.”

Michael Egwuagu appears to be having a great fall. What do you expect from him?
“Egg was really able to learn under Nic Johnston. Nic was phenomenal for us, he was almost like a coach on the field. Egg was really raw when we got him. For him to come in and be able to learn for two years under Nic and learn the approach to the game, you see the fruits of that now. He’s been great. What we talked about going into the summer from the spring was stop relying on your athletic ability and play the game in your mind. I see him doing that and that is exciting as a coach because he took he embraced it. You can see the game is slowing down for him and he’s making plays.”

What happened last season when Egwuagu left the team?
“I’ve been in this for awhile. Nothing really shocks me, especially when we’re dealing with 18-22 year olds. I think once he made the decision, he realized what he had here. It was family. He made a knee-jerk decision. We’re in the business of second chances. We’re not in the business of kicking kids off the team. They eliminate themselves. Coach Coker says that all of the time. So when he decided he made a mistake, he was sincere about it. I give him this, he had to standup in front of the whole team and apologize. He had to work for their respect, they just didn’t give it to him right off the bat. He sat out, did his time, and low and behold, he was able to help us. I think that’s a bump in the road. Now, he’s going to be able to help another young man down the road who is maybe thinking about a decision like that. We’re a tight-knit family. What goes on between closed doors is between us. He knows he got his back as family, as coaches. We hope what we teach these players in their 4-5 year period is to get them ready for the real world. This was just a bump in the road, he could have handled it a little differently, but that’s why he’s here. He’s learned from it, I don’t hold it over his head, nobody does. We’re moving forward. We’re glad he’s here. He’s an outstanding young man and whatever he puts his hand to, he’ll find success.”

Chase Dahlquist was playing well before he went down with injury, can you talk about what you’re expecting from him?
“Chase was having a great camp. He was back to what he was when we originally recruited him. He had a down year last season. Part of that was his back was hurting. He was having a great camp, we should get him back next week. I’m looking for him to do big things. Those guys push and lean on each other. They feed off each other. That’s the beauty of it. They know they’re all going to play if they perform well in practice. I’m looking forward to get him back, obviously, but this has allowed us to create some depth. Our guys aren’t going to miss a beat, we’re going to keep moving forward. When we get our brother back, that will just add to the fire.”

Coach Neathery said recently Austin Jupe wasn’t in the mix at Safety. Can you expand on that?
“You have to realize that Austin hasn’t played in two years. He went to Baylor and redshirted. Then he had to sit out here because of the transfer rule. So he really hasn’t played in a game. Our mindset was to get him ready for special teams, get him in the groove of playing college ball because he hasn’t sniffed the field. Once we get him into the groove, then we can work him into the rotation defensively. When will that happen? It all depends on Austin and how he processes and developments as far as picking up the defense. That young man is going to help this football team in some capacity but probably more so on special teams.”

How are the rest of the Safeties looking?
“Believe or not, Justin Chavez is having a great camp. He’s actually pushing Nate for the #1. Mauricio (Sanchez) and Duke (Wheeler) are doing well at the other Safety spot. Mauricio is having a really good camp, he’s the veteran of the defense, he’s played more ball than anybody on this team. He works his tail off. He’s a great example for the other players for what the standard of a UTSA Safety is. He makes my job a lot easier because he talks it and walks it.”

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